This post is specifically for you gentlemen out there.
I wish I could say, “I’m sorry” and let that be it. I could flippantly blow out a “sorry, not sorry,” but that’d just be cold and not helpful.
I have noticed lately that my teenage daughter and I are having some problems communicating with some key men in our lives – me with a friend, her with her boss. We aren’t being rude, ugly, or nasty. We’re being open and honest, maybe a bit confrontational in healthy ways (yes, they exist), and compassionate. We ask questions in a straight-forward way and tend to lean towards “blunt and tactful.” Her boss has felt attacked for something that wasn’t his fault and that my daughter acknowledges she doesn’t blame him for. My friend thought I was starting an argument when that wasn’t my intention and my entire system was actually very zen.
Why were we dealing with communication problems when we were both being very clear, concise, and assertive about what we wanted? Were we doing or saying something wrong? I analyzed both sets of communiques and determined that there was nothing we could’ve done differently and apparently, the problem lies with the guys with whom we’re communicating. I’m not saying or implying that we’re perfect and communication problems are always the fault of the other person, and I suspect that the “problem” with the guys isn’t their fault, either. They’ve been taught/trained poor communication practices by other women in their lives.
So, for what am I not sorry? Well, the list is longish.
(1) I’m not sorry for the games other women have played with you. Using tears, threats, or other means of manipulation to get their way has taught you that all women do those things. I’m here to tell you, we don’t. But these tactics go back for millennia! Literally. Ever hear of a Philistine woman named Delilah? She used these same tricks on Samson – and they worked. If a man as physically and spiritually strong as Samson can be manipulated by womanly wiles, many women figure that their man can be, too, and much more easily.
(2) I’m not sorry for being blunt. As a newlywed wife, I discovered that some families are happy with “reading between the lines” in communicating with each other. That seems like a recipe for disaster to me, because they may not always read the right message. One person I encountered several years ago said I’m the “most blunt-speaking Southerner [she’d] ever met.” Being less than blunt feels too much like game-playing to me, and I don’t have time to play games or to spend an additional two hours trying to communicate my vague hints and innuendos to you, hoping you’ll somehow understand what I’m trying to get across.
(3) I’m not sorry for “fighting like a man.” High school is a fascinating microcosm in which to observe how people of different genders interact. When I was in high school and two guys got into a fight, they’d pummel each other for 5-10 minutes, help each other up, and often go out to lunch together. Two girls on the other hand… Woowhee! You’d be looking at six months of gossip, rumor-spreading, backstabbing, catty remarks, pranks, and attempts to steal both friends and boyfriends. There’d be no reconciliation, no apologies, no forgiveness. This behavior would go on until both girls were bored with it. When I was a teen, my mom and I would get into some pretty impressive, holy-crap-are-these-hormones-flying-high fights. We’d yell for 5-10 minutes and the fight would end with one of us getting tongue-tied and our both laughing or leaving in tears, and the one who didn’t cry would go to the other, apology on her lips, after taking a minute or two to de-escalate. My female-to-female fights were over, done, and forgotten in fifteen minutes or less. All my fights are like this, and I have no problem with apologizing.
(4) I’m not sorry for how other women have treated you. I’ve heard the stories. There are – pardon my language – some bat-shit crazy women out there. There are stalkers and bunny boilers (e.g., Fatal Attraction). There are women who’d cut you for glancing sideways at another woman, even if that woman weighs 300 pounds and is wearing neon spandex when the woman on your arm is wicked-smart with curves in all the right places. There are women who can’t let go of a relationship when it’s over and who pull out all the stops when it comes to manipulating you after the fact. That type of mess leaves a mark and colors how you engage with other women.
(5) I’m not sorry for the behavior of the first woman to teach you how to act with a woman – your mother. Maybe she tried to make you responsible for her happiness or sadness. (“Now make Momma happy and be a good boy.”) Maybe every time you tried to assert yourself, your emotions or your willingness to do something, she accused you of not loving her anymore. Maybe she told you that no other woman would ever understand/love/appreciate you like your momma, which has left you wondering why none of your adult romantic relationships have felt the same.
(6) I’m not sorry for teaching my daughters how to be open, honest communicators. I can’t apologize for teaching them the right way to share what they’re thinking without apology. Why should they apologize for being blunt, for being honest, for stating unequivocally what they want? You’d never expect a man to apologize for blunt honesty, so why expect it of a woman? They’re both going into male-dominated fields, so communicating “like men” is necessary for their success.
Fellas, I can’t and won’t apologize for the painful mess other women have put you through, as those aren’t my fault. Likewise, I can’t and won’t apologize for how my daughter and I speak to you, as long as we’re not being malicious or hurtful. (If one of us levels some truth at you, though, and you don’t like it, that’s on you.) We feel for you, though. We can understand the hurt you’ve experienced and have nothing but compassion for you and what you’ve lived through. All we ask is that you come to realize that not all women are like that, just as you’re probably not like the worst male we’ve ever encountered. Take us at face value, because there won’t be much guile for you to wade through.